******TRIGGERS SUSPECTED******

SPECIAL NOTE: I recently re-read this intro after some posts kicked it back to the top of the forum stack. I wrote it over three and a half years ago, and so much has changed that I felt it was important to reflect that here. I have grown quite a bit, and my perspectives have evolved as well - but I admit I never realized how much until I read what my three-and-a-half year younger self had to say. So I went through this carefully and added a bit more while trying my best to preserve that earlier voice. I think in so doing, these words may prove more useful to others with similar experiences. Interestingly, the view count on this post topped 10,000 while I was reworking this. That is humbling, but I also know that this is not just my story - it is the story of many here, some who have let me know how much this resonates with their own experience. The greatest honor is to be woven tightly into the fabric of shared experience here. I've stood alone with this for far too long. If my words have connected with one survivor, or one person who has a survivor in their life, or most especially given pause to one abuser - hence sparing a child from having to live out his own journey of healing - then that helps kill any second thoughts I may have for sharing at this level.

Eirik
September 2015


Hi - I suppose it's about time I did an intro - this and my post about my name and avatar pretty well sums me up here in the forum until/if I post my so-called story.

I don't know really the difference between introductions and stories - a casual introduction explains little, yet a full story seems overkill. Since I often find myself repeating the essentials of myself to others, I might as well use this as an opportunity to post this as reference. When you get to the end of this intro, I think you'll know pretty much who I am and why I am here.

As a preamble, please keep in mind that I am spilling something out here that once occupied all my energy to conceal. So while I know this is a public share, it remains to me a sacred one. This breaking of silence and secrets is a strange and uncomfortable intimacy for me. But breaking secrets is precisely what has compelled me to put this out here. Imagine if, while any of us were being abused, we ran across someone else our age going through the same thing. Imagine we could sit under a shady willow tree alone and just talk about it - really talk like we couldn't do with anyone else. It would kill the notion we were alone, help us find an entirely different context in the utter confusion of what we were going through, give us the support we were aching for, and perhaps embolden us to speak out and stop it. And so I write.

There is, of course, another side to sharing so publicly. I hope the eyes that move past this point do so for good reasons and in the proper spirit. Perhaps like most here, you are a survivor. There is nothing more powerful than suddenly realizing you are not alone with this. And to you, I want to share at a level deep enough to remove all doubt (albeit at the risk of triggers). Perhaps you have never experienced child sexual abuse (CSA) but would like to understand it. In that case, maybe by sharing my experience, it will define the problem deeper than the more sensational and superficial slant you might otherwise get from news media. And while you may have never have experienced CSA, someday you may see something, suspect something, or have to reconcile something that just seems wrong. I don't advocate hysteria, but if my story encourages you to take that second glance, that deeper look, then these words have some value to you as well. Maybe you are the parent of a child who was a victim, or the partner of a survivor. My hope is that this will give some insight from another survivor's perspective in understanding even a little piece of what they are going through. As a supporter, you don't need to supply the answers, only an ear to listen, and perhaps a hug to show that you are listening. And finally, maybe you are an abuser yourself - or have struggled with such thoughts. If so, I do not judge you, but rather challenge you. I do not presume to know that hell, but I saw my own abuser deal with his - and when those who could have helped him failed, I paid the price. So perhaps this survivor's perspective lends some credence to these words: Dare to extract the deeper message beyond the imagery these words may conjure. Dare to open your eyes and see the incredible life damage such actions can do to a victim. Dare to seek the help my abuser never got but should have. Challenge yourself to understand that you can be the biggest hero in a child's life - simply by being the best person you can be in your life. I believe history shows us that great men are often not without great flaws - but those who are stronger than their flaws are great men.

My journey has convinced me that every survivor's experience is a fingerprint, a result of an almost infinite combination of variables that define what, when, where, how and why it happened, the ages of victim and abuser, the number of victims and abusers, who they were to each other before the abuse, how it affected them, the frequency and duration of the abuse, the physicality and physiology of it, where it fell on the spectrum from gentle grooming to violence - and the infinite shades of character that define who the victim was when it started and who they had to become to survive it. This is my fingerprint. I am not a therapist or educated in any form of counselling. I cannot tell you what works and what doesn't, and I will not try. All I can do is share my story. But if some of the ridges of my fingerprint line up with yours, such resonance can be a powerfully healing thing.

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In a nutshell, I was the victim of a long-term serial abuse case that my therapist characterized as "unusually intense." It was at the hands of an older next-door neighborhood kid - I was his little "side kick" and looked up to him like a big brother. We were best buddies despite our age and physical differences. When he got older he started molesting several of the 8-9 year old girls in our neighborhood, and I was one of the only boys (I was 12 when he started on me). Despite his ubiquitous interest in the little girls, his sessions with me were far more frequent. Since, as boys, we often slept together in sleeping bags in the basement or in a tent pitched in our wooded back yard, his access to me allowed much longer and more intense sessions with less threat of interruption - often involving full consummation two or three times over the course of a single overnight. As I write this, I remember one morning walking back to the house from the tent, my eyes so puffy from lack of sleep I barely recognized the boy looking back from the powder room mirror. My mom laughed and said that it looked like I was awake all night. She had no idea. This pattern became my "normal" and continued through my teens until I finally just "ran away" to California (from New York state) in part as a measured but desperate move to distance myself from him.

Among those who were caught in his web was my little sister. The dynamics of that went deep. I was the protector not only of her but of all the girls of whom I was aware. I did so by "taking the bullet," knowing he couldn't shoot them if his gun was empty. Better me than my sister, I thought. I was already tarnished - so if I was in for a penny, I guess I was in for a pound. I can't even begin to explain all the psycho-dynamics that caused me, but one of the results is that I still have a very tough time getting in touch with my anger. Seeing him molest the girls deeply disturbed me, but breaking up his sessions with them was a whispered effort. Secrecy trumped everything. So I had to be very cool and manipulative with him, even though I was the greater victim of his manipulations. I was smarter than he was, but he was older and stronger. He had a tremendous urge and relentless whining insistence I never managed to stand up against. Yet I knew that if I acquiesced, my sister and her friends wouldn't have to. At least, that is, until the next day. And the next. And the next. My perspectives were those of a child, and thus rather myopic.

Anger? It never seemed appropriate. I didn't understand what sex was when this started - although I knew instinctively that it was wrong - and I was too busy keeping a level head to spare my sister. I couldn't afford to indulge in the indignation the parents in the neighborhood showed once they found out. Their anger scared me much more than anything my abuser was doing to me, and many of us victims stayed hidden as the drama played out over our heads. Had the adults been as calculating as I, I suspect this guy would have been TREATED AND MANAGED instead of threatened with punishment (as if that would resolve the issue). To this day, I rarely get angry about anything and tend to be very even-tempered. Frustrated? Yes. Anger, however, has almost always proven itself to me as a useless self-indulgence. How Spockian. I still shrink from angry people, tending not to trust them or their judgement.

Our abuser was caught when one of the girls awoke with nightmares and told her mother. The mother's husband was out of town on a business conference, so she approached my father, who was a medical doctor and well respected in the neighborhood. My dad in turn assembled a committee of two other fathers and they met in a closed session with our abuser. As a kid, I was not a party to that discussion, but was keenly aware of it. They came very close to handing this over to the police. But their final decision was to keep it quiet and circumvent what would have likely been a difficult trial for everyone. Years later, those fathers since gone, I discovered they apparently never knew I was a victim - nor my sister. There were so many of us but they never looked hard enough, or perhaps they could never have imagined the scope of the abuse. If they had, perhaps they would have taken this further. There's more - much more - to this part of the story. I am sharing the essentials here, and maybe some day I'll share it more fully, but suffice it to say that the solution to the problem was to throw me back into the lion's den to save the girls. I was perplexed about why they insisted that I help him through this rough patch and keep him from the girls (as I was literally asked to do), because at the time I had reason to believe they were aware I was a victim as well. I was 13 at this point. I was hopeful, however, that my molester - who was once like my big brother - would be "normal" again. I thought we could forget the nasty stuff we did and just get back to being like we once were. And for a while, he seemed humbled, contrite. Perhaps even malleable. I actually was intoxicated with the belief that I could not only do the job I was tasked with, but recreate him, rebuild him into something better. I was thirteen and possessed all the magic and optimism optimism of my age. He seemed sadder, and so I would try to cheer him up. I pushed bike rides, swimming, one-on-one hoops. I was in charge, feeling like a newly-hired coach. But his demons crept back, and his contrition did not last long.

My molester knew that I was tasked by the adults to ensure he stayed away from the younger girls. After only a few days, he started in again with me - with a renewed urgency. He told me that he wanted to do it again with the girls but didn't know how to stop himself. He begged for me to submit to him. He whined for it. I tried to reason him out of his desperation, but nothing I said seemed work. The biking wasn't enough. Neither was the basketball. I knew I was supposed to help him. And he sure reminded me of that. It came down to an ultimatum of sorts: if I did not submit, he made it clear that it would be upon my conscience that he would have to touch the girls again. I particularly remember that supplicating slide back down into his darkness that day - how reluctant I was with every step he encouraged me to take. How the magic of better possibilities evaporated. It felt as if the whole neighborhood was in collusion with perpetuating the mess I was in. I was convinced that everybody just knew - that they were all keeping my dirty secret, that everyone - my molester, the girls, the adults - would all be just fine if I could just quietly submit. Even my dreams provided no escape. I remember vividly a recurring nightmare in which my parents - and other adults - were standing behind my molester, waiting their turn with me. Of course I never experienced incest or even the hint of that. But my shame was scorching. I would wake up and avoid my parents. I began losing trust with my more pubescent friends, convinced that they would do the same with me given half the chance. I certainly had no concept of healthy boundaries, much less how to protect them. Anyone who got too close to me was suspect, even simple smiles had ulterior motives, and as I got older, anyone who found me attractive was by definition sick and dirty (perhaps reflecting an inverse of how I saw myself?). I started wearing baggy clothes before baggy was in style just to hide the curves of my body. I hid my eyes behind sheepdog bangs of long hair.

Many speak of child sexual abuse and the loss of trust. To me, that "big brother" friend certainly lost my trust. No surprise there. But then I started not trusting my friends, even my family. My dubiety grew like a cancer - extending to relatives, teachers, authority figures - and robbing me of the healthier relationships I should have been building. But the biggest loss of trust was with myself. My body was responding to the abuse in ways I didn't want, despite mustering every ounce of my will. It vexed my conscience and impugned my sense of integrity, and I judged myself harshly. I grew to understand that my abuser just couldn't help himself - like an out-of-control train with no brakes. He was insatiable. And even though I knew he was the more guilty party, I still expected far more from myself than from him. He was simply defective. But what was my excuse? Eventually I just ran away from it all with all the naivety of believing I actually could. Just like the biblical Jonah, I found I could run to the ends of the earth, but in the process never succeed in distancing even an inch from myself.

But I tried. In California, three thousand miles from home, I attempted to reboot my life and bury the boy I was. I went there to forget who I was. I dyed my hair and changed my name. I gave myself a ticket to be whoever I wanted to explore being - as long as it wasn't the boy I was - the boy I left back home. I thought I might be gay but wasn't sure. I would fall in love equally with girls or guys. My new-found anonymity made me bold enough to explore. My first "coming out" experience was at a dark little bar called Mr. Mike's in Glendale. Although I forgot my ID, the bartender - a crew-cut redhead with tattoos - was cool about it (I looked very 16 at 21). He bought me my drinks all night - every time my glass neared empty, a fresh one magically appeared in front of me. Interestingly, I still remember how thrilled I was to see those magical drinks - feeling like Christmas gifts, sensing I made a friend. I wasn't a drinker, but I drank them down as they came. It was my first time in a gay bar. I was terrified to talk to anyone around me. But alcohol was soothing the jitters. And the drinks kept coming, thanks to this new-found and sudden friend in a strange and intimidating place. He put the last one on the bar right at closing time - inviting me to stay and finish it while he locked up. Everyone was leaving but I was the special one who got to stay - more special than all those regulars. I was lapping up the attention like a puppy, confident in my power to charm, trusting that power going forward. Yet despite feeling self-possessed and affirmed, I was still uncertain and completely out of my element. I look back at it and can see that there was clearly a gradient that I did not appreciate. He was both older and bigger than me, both by a factor of two. I was naive and believed in his smiles, stepping onto his playing field under his rules. I am sure he sensed my hesitancy and uncertainly, and plied that vulnerability with drinks. And I would soon find there was no way to apply the brakes to where he was taking this. I really I thought I could. But I wasn't prepared in any way for what was to happen. The drinks caught up to me. Hard. Things were spinning. His smile disappeared when the door was locked. The smile came back as a smirk when he was finished. I hated him. I hated me. It was my decision to accept the drinks he bought me, my decision to bask in the attention he showed me, my decision to drink myself defenseless. And it was my decision to stay when he locked that door. I owned the problem because I set myself up for it. I stepped right back into a familiar role and embraced a familiar self-reproach afterwards. I look back now and realize how striking was the similarity of pattern. My ears were ringing in the sudden silence of an empty street when I finally stepped out the door. The city was sleeping, and I should have been, too. I should have been safe in bed. I deeply regretted I wasn't. I walked through the darkness to my apartment 20 minutes away, and stepped into a long, hot shower. The memories of that night washed down the drain with the sweat, the blood and the tears. When I awoke the next day, that night was history. Buried. Lesson learned. I never looked at it again until therapy years later. But my ability to not look was certainly well-practiced by then.

It took a long time for me to see the truths of what happened. In both cases- my CSA and this episode - I knew who the "bad guy" was. But so what? The point was moot - both were beyond hope and neither was within my power to make them "good." But I sure as hell expected more of ME. I judged myself as if I could have salvaged my integrity, my honor. My thinking was - hey - what else do I deserve for being a despicable little gay boy? And in both cases of abuse, the same-sex taboo condemned me before I could even launch out of the starting blocks. There was no finish-line of justice or help to run towards even if I tried. Societal hang ups were powerful silencers - I saw what happened to me as gay issues when in fact they were boundary issues. So these episodes became my secrets, floating pieces of filthy memory I tried to pack away and try to forget. It took me years to see through the lies I told myself and to understand how my patterns with one abuser set me up so perfectly for another. It also took a single defining event in my adult life - the death of my father - and a really good therapist named Marc to whom I am eternally grateful. If you are reading this, Marc - you might recognize me from these words. I've come far, thanks in large part to you.

When I went through therapy ten years ago, I was so full of self-deluding constructs that I simply couldn't see that what happened to me as a child was molestation. My past was deeply entrenched in the lies I told myself. It was supposed to be "grief therapy." I was inconsolable for months after the sudden death of my father, and it soon became clear that my grief was not abating. A friend gave me a card with a number, and I made the appointment. When the therapist took me for a walk down the dirty trail into my past, I figured - OK, if this is the stupid game I have to play - then fine. Talk about what he wants and then we can finally discuss what I was really there for. But those sessions opened my eyes to everything I had closed them to. Marc was brilliant - letting me do all the talking, but his questions were smartly-planted guideposts, marking the trail he knew I needed to walk. His talent - I believe - was that he had an uncanny sense about precisely where I did not want to go - or a sense of where he knew I needed to go - and didn't let me get away with skirting around those places. He never judged. He never summarized. He simply let me hear myself. The truths I had created just did not stand up to the truths that were spilling out of my mouth. I was a small prepubescent boy submitting to receptive anal intercourse - countless times - with a bigger, fully pubescent male 3 years older than me all under the threat that he'd molest my sister if I said no! And when I said yes, he'd molest her anyways. But - hey - that was MY fault, right? It's amazing how much I managed to kid myself for so long. Unlearning those lies I told myself was an adventure into my soul that was as dark as it was fascinating. It wasn't an easy journey, and I was a skeptical and reluctant patient. It was like slogging through a muddy swamp in heavy boots - embarrassing, awful stuff to dredge myself through - in large part because I owned every sin. It was a trail of tears, a hard look in the mirror for the first time in my life. And at the end of that path was waiting a kid I dismissed and packed away with all the other memories. A kid I wouldn't look at. A kid who was abused by his molester, only to then be neglected by me. All this talk of an inner child that I used to laugh at? Well, I blamed mine and denied him. In so doing, I essentially amputated myself from my childhood. I wandered through my adult life without a core, and wondered why nothing seemed to work out - in school, in relationships, in work.

If I could sum up in a simple three-word sentence the biggest lesson those therapy sessions taught me it is this: Look at it. It sounds simple, but my whole life was about not looking at it, about keeping secrets and redefining truths. I stopped looking at it when it started. The adults stopped looking at it, too. Nobody was looking at any of this. Therapy revealed some hard truths. I wasn't going anywhere in my life because I had no idea where I was coming from - or even who I was. Just looking at it was all I needed to do - but that was a major effort and I could not have done it alone. I just needed to open my eyes - and amazingly, once I did, everything in my life started re-aligning itself. And while my life remains far from perfect (if there is ever such a thing) - it is certainly far from the imperfect that it was. It helps me to understand that - for me at least - there is no endpoint, no gleaming moment called "recovery" where I stand on a mountain peak in the sun, triumphant. In fact, for me there is no "recovery." There is nothing to "fix." There is only the journey of opening my eyes with an honesty that stopped when I was twelve - and in the end, I finally own myself, damages and all. I have discovered that it is enough in this life just to do that.

So who is Eirik today? I am an educated professional, in the middle of my life (admittedly an assumption), in a stable and healthy relationship for several years, and am generally happy. I am also wounded, remain dysfunctional in many areas, and am still coming to terms with who I am. A lot was stolen from me. I'll never know the man I might have been had my CSA not occurred - but I suspect my life would have been quite different. I am still learning to rebuild myself, but I can usually say that I am a better man today than I was yesterday. And that little boy I neglected? He's the best part of me. He is my core. He's the light that shines out of me, reflecting back in the smiles of everyone around me that matters. You'll see him here now and then - occasionally in my avatar or my signature - smiling despite what was happening. He had an amazing bounce and effervescence. His dad called him a super ball - the harder he hit, the higher he'd bounce. And maybe that dad could have been proud of him had he known what that kid was trying to do. The boy I was did the best he could, holding everyone's secrets, trying his hardest to spare others from falling prey to the darkness he knew, navigating X-rated problems that confounded even the adults, problems he didn't understand, problems for which he felt there was nowhere to turn for help. And he dealt with all that carrying nothing more than the tools of a child - the perspectives of a 75 pound kid who just wanted to ride his bike, swim, play pickup basketball and sandlot baseball until the sun was too low to see the ball, and who believed in magical things. He returned every smile and was an easy mark for bullies. He was a powerhouse in a slight little package, and stronger than I could ever hope to be now as an adult.

The price I paid? Here's just one. My dad told me when I was still a young teenager that despite getting on my tail about being irresponsible and immature, "You're a real good boy and I'm awfully proud of you." A real good boy? Proud? He obviously had no idea how nasty and dirty I was. He - like all the adults in our neighborhood - had not a clue of the subterranean filth flowing at his feet. And I certainly wasn't about to disabuse him of his flawed notions. I took that compliment like a hungry dog snatching a forbidden pork chop from the dinner table - and hid forever. He gave me a compliment, yet I felt I stole it, greedily keeping it until that day when I was pure enough to earn it - that day I could step proudly into his regard. But that day never came. I kept him at arm's length to preserve his delusions of me - and then I suddenly lost him forever (he died unexpectedly during surgery). His last words to me were these (and yes - I can quote them precisely): I never knew you like I wanted to - you are such a private person. But I know you love me.

That's what was stolen from me. I think about that when the news media focuses on the sex of child sexual abuse rather than the deeper human loss it creates. And I think about that when I hear the louder voices drown out the quieter victims, defining the crime within the narrow self-serving perspectives of their own moral indignation. Because as loud as they are, they don't own it. We as victims do. And when those voices quiet down and the monster is locked up forever, the victim is left alone with the same quiet shame and shattered secrets, while everyone else walks away. It is what we are left holding that destroys us, that sometimes even kills us. This is what I believe - this is what my journey has taught me. Because while sex is a theft of the body, it eventually stops. But the secrets and shame it plants stay hidden under the skin of every survivor, and will eat holes through the soul.

One of the events that brought me here to MaleSurvivor was an email from a girl just a few years ago - completely out of the blue - who thanked me for being her "hero" all those years ago. I had walked in on her and my perp, and told her to get out just as he was starting to undress her. And the funny thing is - I barely remembered it. There were so many. But I can pretty much guarantee I took the bullet. She was spared. And she now has a beautiful family. She told me that if I didn't step in and rescue her, that family of hers may have never existed. I don't have a family. But I'm the dirty little hero.
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